Dance Party

A few weeks ago, I finally got around to watching a film I’ve meant to see for ages, Visconti’s Il Gatopardo (The Leopard). It’s an epic from 1963, with Burt Lancaster (dubbed in Italian!) as the patriarch of a great, aristocratic Sicilian family on the cusp of massive changes in the mid-19th century. It was gorgeous, and I couldn’t believe I waited so long to see it!

The last scene was my favorite, a 45-minute ballroom set-piece full of Verdi and swirling gowns, which manages to look fabulously authentic, draw the viewer deep into that world, and still be a meditation on mortality and change, youth and age. It’s so full of emotions that simmer just beneath the sparkling surface. Writing historical romance means writing lots of ballroom scenes, of course, and they’re some of my favorites to work on. So much can happen in a dance, so much that has to be hidden or that bursts out suddenly with vast consequences. It can mean so much in a story. And this scene in The Leopard was very inspiring.

It also made me think of other dance scenes I love in movies, especially with the holiday parties looming! I did a little informal polling on Facebook and Twitter, asking people’s favorite dance scenes. I heard about Rogers and Astaire (I especially love the “dancing in the gazebo while it rains” scene!), Gene Kelly dancing in the rain, Dirty Dancing (also a guilty pleasure of mine, I confess), and lots of Pride and Prejudice. It seems like every Austen adaptation has a dance scene (or two or three), including the most recent Emma, where Emma leaped around and shrieked like she was at a rugby match!

I’m partial to the Netherfield ball in the 2005 P&P, where the room slowly vanishes around Elizabeth and Darcy as they dance and stare smolderingly. I like The Age of Innocence, where the camera rises up from Newland and May to show the swirling characters on the polished floor while Strauss plays. The coronation ball in Young Victoria (I seriously covet her gown), the volta in Shakespeare in Love, the tango in The Mask of Zorro, Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in the empty tennis court in Sabrina, the meet-cute at the Bath assembly rooms in Northanger Abbey. The cell-block tango in Chicago. And who could forget “Other way, Mr. Collins!”??

Now that I think about it, there are lots of dance scenes I love. What are your favorite movie dance scenes? Do you like reading/writing ballroom scenes?

And don’t forget, I’ll be back here this Sunday, along with Nicola Cornick, as we launch our December releases (and give away copies!), and I’ll be at the Word Wenches on the 24th. For more info on various blog appearances, excerpts, and a December contest, be sure and visit my Laurel site

About Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

Writer (as Amanda McCabe, Laurel McKee, Amanda Carmack), history geek, yoga enthusiast, pet owner!
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